Letter to the editor: We have room in our schools. Can we share it?

I went to see “Human Flow,” Ai Weiwei’s moving and heartbreaking documentary about the global refugee crisis. It showed families fleeing from desperate situations such as war, ethnic cleansing, poverty, and loss of ability to sustain themselves from the land due to climate change. Many thousands of people are now living in hopeless situations in refugee camps, some for as long as 25 years. Thousands of children have never been to school.

Here we are in Addison County faced with declining student enrollment and possible closing of local schools, which are the heart of our small town communities. Obviously, it isn’t feasible or practical to think that we could bring many families from across the world to live here and attend our schools. But what about the migrant workers who are already here? They work on our local farms, milk the cows, and produce our food. They are good workers doing work that local people don’t want to do. They work long hours, often live in substandard housing and are forced to live under the radar. They receive no services for the taxes they pay. They have the same family values that we do, and would love their children to have a good education. Couldn’t we welcome them and their families? Could we not consider ways to solve our problems by helping them solve theirs?

Last summer I attended a wonderful event in Middlebury that was catered by Viva el Sabor, a group of 14 women who cook Central American cuisine. It was a celebration of the blending of cultures. Around 1,800 people of all ages attended the event, enjoyed the food and the music from a mariachi band. This kind of event shows that many people are open to embracing other cultures and recognizing their contribution to our community. I don’t mean to suggest that allowing migrants who are searching for a way to feed their families, to live here legitimately would be easy or uncomplicated, but change begins with new ideas and shifts in thinking.

There is a bumper sticker that says, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” We live in a global system these days, so can we help solve a small piece of this human crisis? Can we open our hearts and minds to give people who are struggling to feed their families a legitimate home? Can we at least consider the idea? Surely, when we help others, we help ourselves.

Margaret Benn

New Haven

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